Edinburgh Festival Fringe: You’re queuing at border control and you see someone being pulled aside. They are an individual, a lone figure picked out from the crowd, like a sheep being isolated from the flock by a wolf. You don’t know them, nor do you know the official grounds for suspicion.
Canada Hub @ King’s Hall in association with Summerhall (Venue 73)
But what if you did? And what if you also had an insight into the minds of your fellow-travellers, their beliefs and faiths, their biases and prejudices? What if somehow you could influence who sailed through the passport check and who was detained? What would happen if the finger of suspicion pointed at you?
This is the experience of the sell-out hit Foreign Radical, an unsettling provocation written by Tim Carlson and directed by Jeremy Waller for British Columbia’s Theatre Conspiracy that lets no-one off the hook. Even on the Edinburgh Fringe, not known as a hotbed of Alt-Right opinion, it needles its way between audience members, sorting not only the authoritarian wolf from the liberal sheep, but the anything-goes sheep from the safety-first goats in an us-against-them game that turns so easily into them against me. It’s a show that gets under your skin.
It does that through a combination of chance and uncertainty. The 30-strong audience is ushered through a seemingly arbitrary series of rooms – at any given moment, we could be in a holding cell, a torture chamber or a debriefing unit – and at any point, we could inadvertently answer a question that determines where we go next. Our quizmaster is Milton Lim, all shiny showbiz suit and rictus grin, a figure of family-viewing friendliness and malicious purpose.
His binary questions split us into gangs, then subdivisions, then cells, our suspicions turning on each other or alternatively on Aryo Khakpour, the man we keep finding in states of undress and distress.
Is he culprit? Victim? Innocent? Guilty? It’s our call. And just as it seems to be pushing us into an easy liberal condemnation of the USA’s “reasonable grounds for suspicion” immigration rules, it turns the tables and demands we make decisions of our own, giving us a disorientating view of the herd mentality and of our personal contradictions.
Until 27 August. Today 1pm.